Argo gets the Oscar?

_66052330_affleck_gettySo Argo wins the Oscar for Best Film. I’m not denying it’s a well-crafted movie with good attention to periodic detail and an interesting, gripping story but there seems a slight misconception at hand. Part of the fascination with Argo (and the plaudits that went with it) revolves around the retelling of a tense and inventive escape from a revolutionary Iran finally throwing the shackles of Western interference and a despotic monarch.

Yet Argo is so loose with the truth it should be classified as fiction. Almost all the moments of tension and fear (the trip to the market, the woman at the gate, the inability to go outside, the conversations in the embassy and the chase at the end) are completely made up. The directorial ability to recreate events here is total bullshit and I’d question the accolades it gets. He should get a Michael Mann award!

Seriously though its a very well-made film and it only has to be better than its competitors and generally I’d say it is only a film. But a film that plays so loosely with the term ‘based on a true story’ is ingeniousness. The praise concerns its recreation of past events. That is conceptually true but factually redundant.

Dan’s Awards 2012

DSCF7883Person of the Year

Gabriel Almonacid for being a great mate in Colombia providing me with a bed, a guide in Bogota and the ‘nearby’ old towns and staying with his great family in Armenia. I even heard he and Claudia tried to call me the other night!

Comeback of the Year

Christine Leclerc. After living together for a year many years ago, I can say I have missed that big laugh and smiley face a lot.

DSCF1214Newcomer of the Year

Jan Thomas Ødegaard, the slightly eccentric Norwegian gets the nod.

My Christ Its Been a Long Time

Bobbi Coombs met me at the airport in Winnipeg after not seeing each other for about 3500 days (aka 9.5 years) and then had me to stay for a few days. We ate Easter dinner with her family, watched hockey together and I got well and truly plastered with her brother Doug.

DSCF8918Meal of the Year

Eating the freshly-caught fish in Colombia with Jenni and Kati.

Sushi with Ronnie and Debs in Ontario

Tapas and red wine with Gabrielle in Bilbao.

What the hell happened Last Night drunk night

3. The Sarajevo dancing night.

2. Post presentation with Oli Bigland in Oxford

1. Waking up in the morning in a Ukrainian mental hospital. I still don’t know what happened.

PANO_20120516_183803Sight of the Year

Kotor in Montenegro blew me away. Waking up in our house in Salento in Colombia. The sight of Venice from the train station. Its everything you’ve heard about.

Random Moment Award

Jumping off the NY subway to be with Bora.

The house gig with Em in Bavaria

Cultural Event of the Year

Taking part in the La Merce festival in Barcelona with Ilo. Fireworks, burns and dancing masks.

DSC_0392-1Sports event of the Year

Big year for games. I saw maybe 10 and 5 or 6 were football derbies, the Yankees and the Knicks play in New York but it has to go to the Belgrade derby. Red Star against Partizan Belgrade.

Films of the Year

Moonrise Kingdom or Cloud Atlas

Favourite album of the year


Moment of Violence Moment

Getting chased and hit with a truncheon by a rabid Bosnian policeman before the Sarajevo derby was pretty exciting.

Bar of the Year

Tijuana bar in Belgrade, the night of the French music with Mirjana and Jan.

Hospital Bar in Kiev with the flaming helmet

Scariest moment of the Year

Seeing Emmi somersault off her bike and land on her head in Bavaria. Luckily she was wearing a helmet and only broke two neck vertebrates.

Big Balls Moment

Heading back in a taxi from the beach with Jenni and Marioka in Santa Cruz, Colombia, we saw a neighbourhood street party. We changed in the hostel and walked there. the police were outside telling us not to go in as it was a cartel party. We looked at each other and walked over. After some drinks and flour thrown over us, we ended drinking the local firewater outside the convenience store with some truckers until the early hours.

Standing up to another huge, sneering policeman before the Sarajevo derby was fairly scary.

Would I do it all again?

Hell yeah. I’d like to thank everyone for helping me along the way 🙂

The Shah of Shahs/Minor Rant

The Shah of Shahs by Kapucinski

kapuscinskiBrilliant Polish journalist/storyteller Kapucinski wrote up his notes from the Iran revolution and gives a lesser- known insider track to the build up of frustration and fear under the Western-installed and backed Shah.

It’s incredible to think that for reasons of political, security and economic convenience, the leaders of coups can be deemed a natural leader a generation later. The Shah’s father was a military colonel who overthrew the government with the support of the British named himself Shah. After his downfall, again at the instigation of the British, the democratic government was overthrown by the CIA help and the Colonel’s son was installed as the new Shah, as some kind of rightful heir!

And after his overthrow from by the people, his family still get to swan around as the most shameful of aristocracies using the money the Shah stole from the country. I saw the grandson on CNN talking about democracy in Iran despite his very position, wealth and education was bought on the broken bones of the original democratic activists during his father’s regime. Absolutely fucking shameful.

On the same point, I’ve always wondered why Prince Philip is still mentioned as the Prince of Greece. Note to aristocracy and Hello magazine; if your country throws you out as a gluttonous abuser of the people with no productive role, you are no longer a prince of that country

The Bucket Wash


Travelling in Sri Lanka has re-introduced me to the an old travellers institution, the necessity to wash yourself, like billions of others in the world, from a bucket. You have a a ladle or a small bowl, a large tap-filled bucket, an acceptance this is gonna be cold on your crown jewels and a humility that this regression is fine. I try to think of it as that shower you have before diving into the pool. On the negative, you are naked. Then again, no one is watching. Showering like this is barely effective for a newbie like me. But the bigger issue is this is normal for many parts of the world, worse due to the lack of tapped water requires walking for miles to fetch it or going to the river to bath. (Naturally once Myo turned up we had to find a better place!)

I’ve helped out at Water Aid and consulted with them on their research. At Nottingham Dena and I went to see some presentations and films on the subject, The World Water Council, the unoffical water board for the world is in fact a sham organisation run by the French for the benefit of water companies. Its about as effective as the International Whaling Commission which is corrupted by the Japanese. So much so Laos is a member at the invitation of Japan. After they must have a lot of whales in such a  land-locked country.

Access to clean water is considered a human right. Our use of bottled water sold to us by Coca-Cola is a remarkable waste of drinking water. In hindsight so were my ridiculously long showers at Uni or in Korea where I’d run the shower and then have a naked chat with Christine about what drunken shenanigans we got up to last night. All the while Christine hid under the duvet. Abroad foreigners insist of bottled water even when their food and the plates they eat off are washed in local water. My advice is get the bug early and let your guts remedy it and move on. I’ve had four poisoning four times over the years (Brazil, Bolivia, Morocco and Colombia) and the next day, after some water I feel fine. Once we get over our preciousness and remember how we bathed as kids, or chewed plastic and stayed out until bed time out of sight from home, then we’ll relax. A bit of cold water down there is apparently good for circulation they say.

Feste de la Mercee

Barcelona is a city for all seasons. In winter, its warm, In summer there is the beach to cool off at. Autumn and spring merely add to the seasonal blend. Catalunya is on a personal crusade right now for independence. Turn out at rallies now number the millions as it pushes for political autonomy. Its been the richest area of Spain for a while (with the largest debt) despite its economic wings being ironically clipped by the on-going economic crisis in Europe. But its cultural identity and independence is displayed from the countless flags hanging from balcony, the widespread use of the language, the football club producing their own players and festivals proudly extolling the Catalanism.

We were in Barcelona for the Festes de la Mercee, a religious festival involving street parades, fireworks and more artistic cultural events than you can throw a ham at. The city comes to a stop. Stages are set up, streets closed off. Music lights up the city in day and night. Ilo didn’t know too much about all of this and her Spanish is, ummm, modest so I got to practice my language again and tried to organise everything from free accommodation (muchas gracias Nacho and Riccardo) to understanding the labyrinthine  old town and the scale of the festival.

We did other things too. We went to the beach (her idea), drank a lot of wine (mutual idea), ate huge burgers (my idea), bought a magnet (her idea), went to some cool bars (my idea), ate paella (her idea), had free accommodation (my idea), drank wine in the street (her idea), saw The Kooks free (mutual idea), got lost (my idea) and sulked (her idea).

The highlight of the weekend and maybe of all my times in Barcelona was the Sunday night Diablo firework night, a street parade initiation ceremony for the youth of Barcelona. Teams of drummers are accompany by Catherine wheel carrying demons who charge down the street. The idea is to dance in the sparks until it gives out its final bang. The other idea is to arrive dressed appropriately usually meaning hoodies, plastic glasses and long sleeves. I had a t-shirt, jeans and beanie. Ilo had glasses, no sleeves and shorts. Nevertheless after a bit of encouragement she joined me under the fireworks, hiding under me until the bang and we could flee. The noise, energy and excitement was amazing. Such fun. Later we drank in the street, watched a human pyramid family perform next to us, saw a light show and rumba concert and ate some street noodles at 2am. It was a good day.

Now I’m on to San Sebastian, the jewel of Spanish cities, recommended by everyone who’s been. Follow that with Bilbao, Naples, Venice and Bologna before Jan and I’s crazy plan comes into action. For now i can still hear my ears ringing from the drums and fireworks. Awesome time.

Later On, Somewhere Else

I said something I did mean.

Life and emotions can often turn in a heartbeat. For many, decisions made elsewhere have a profound effect on the lives and opprtunities of others. The world can seem chaotic, depressing and volatile. A sense of helplessness creates a need to make sense of it through reference to a supernatural power, be it a God of nature or of human creation. Refugees of war must wonder why they continue to be at the whim of instability, unable to know why their opportunities are curtailed and sanctioned by greater power, local, national or international. The local they can see. The national they expect. The international is beyond their control and comprehension.

I am fortunate. My decisions in general tend to be my own. Where I am, what I choose to do and live are within my own volation. I am aware of my fortune. As a disciple of Bourdieu, a student of sociology, economics and politics, a long-time traveller to the ‘other places’ and a conversation lover, I’m aware too that not everyone recognises their role in all of this whether it be benefical or negative. There are many shades of grey here.

Sometimes the decisions or choices we make are beyond our control and emotions creating a relative, major dilemma for the fortunate. Maslow would talk of the ‘need factor.’ The more fortunate we get, the shallower our needs become and yet they still seem urgent and essential. Recently a friend I’ve liked for a long time blurt out she felt the same as my unspoken thoughts. I replied in kind. We both sighed wth relief. But now we were somewhere else. Our world and thoughts transformed in a second. What does it all mean and where do we go? Is this viable?

Of course it’s never as simple as yes. Other people and consequences need to be considered and especially in this case. The right decision right now is often not the one you want to hear. And yet following the logic of your heart is not often the right way for the moment as lonesome as that could seem. So it goes on the backburner despite it being all you think about, despite it giving the long-absent logic to your fortunate life. The search continues.

Joy from Joy

I spoke to Jennie today for the first time in a long time. We’re going to Barcelona this weekend for a few days and emailed her to see if she is around. She is and she isn’t. For on the 19th she’s suddenly getting married to her boyfriend. The wedding is on Formentera, just off Ibiza. I’m invited but can’t make it. Yet, I was so pleased for her, a huge smile came across my face.

Her happiness as someone I cared a lot and connected with meant a lot to me. I still remember our husband and wife routine to get free drinks in Borneo in the 5 star and bars. That after I invited her to breakfast, the first morning we met. I knew i had to talk to her. We later spent the days exploring, hiking, hitch-hiking, drinking wine, eating delicious Japanese and Indian food, so delicious it stopped all conversation for the entire main course.

I’m going to Bcn with Ilo, staying at Riccardo for a few days before he goes to Italy for a wedding and leaves us the keys to a city centre apartment, its haunts and options. The grand Festes de la Mercee is on, the weather looks fine and we migh sneak a Barcelona game, plus The Kooks are playing for free. Ordinarily this would be enough, seeing old friends, getting round the city, using it as a gateway to San Sebastian and the North coast from where I try to get over to Rome and Naples to see Andy.

Whilst this stinks of good fortune, I’m aware of what more I have to do this year to realise the plans of next year. Enough is enough for me, a striver with no real idea of an end goal but some vague form of enlightenment. Its time to get back to work. Keeps a man and his plans alive 🙂 I am heading to sunrise before returning to sunset. Gonna be a long, long day.

Cardiff to Japan and back again

I managed to squeeze in a weekend to Cardiff with Dr Luke, Ro and Poppy at the start of August. Alex from Notts Uni came down as well as my old mate Si. Ever a pleasure to see them and a rare one too with Si. Life post-uni, as many from Notts are finding out is very different, and rewarding in others way. Gone are the days wasted with hangovers, watching daytime soaps and mulling over physically leaving the house. Hobbies and friends become near luxuries. Get used to it; it doesn’t change.



We spent the weekend wisely, catching two matches (Korea vs Japan and Newcastle vs Cardiff). Neither game were particularly satisfying or important. We spent the Olympic bronze medal match inside the stadium but near camped at the bar. Newcastle managed to produce a magnificently bad defensive display that killed the game off by half-time. But what was important was the symmetry involved.

I’ve lived in both Japan and Korea for over 3 years in total. I know each culture well and cherish those times. We all caught trains to meet in Cardiff and it reminded me of meeting Yukiko on the way to Hiroshima. She came down from Kyoto while I boarded in Osaka.

We arranged to meet in the  front carriage. It was the early train, maybe 730 or so. I remember Yukiko asleep, curled up in the corner, bag in hand waking with a blurry subconscious look and my smile.

We passed the days in Cardiffdrinking beer in the park, talking over times and memories. I’ve much fondness for Si, a guy I totally respect and whose opinion I’ve often sought from football, music, women and work.

I remembered meeting Si at Kansai International with four beers in hand for the short train ride to my place in Kyoto. There was no other way to toast his arrival and  our times together. Days later we were in Hiroshima in kimonos, singing karaoke and getting carried home after too much sake and Captain Q whiskey. Again we went to a game to  a game, Germany vs the USA and I don’t remember a single moment of it. But I remember Si was there.

Break Time

I’m writing this with a hangover after another great night getting blitzed with Oli. I wore a suit yesterday to attend a gala dinner at Hertford College. My students gave their cultural comparative presentations yesterday. They did very well. I was proud of them and then got offered a job in Japan during the break by a visiting Professor. That’s the third job offer so far. I haven’t asked for any of them! Once the dinner formalities were over, I tucked into my dinner (and most of Saki’s) and then the wine. Oh the wine somehow led to free drinks in a bar ( I somehow know the owner) and the jaegarbombs in a nightclub.

I’ve been away from this for a while, just overrun with work, friends, Oxford, plans and booze!! Its been a lot of fun. A real random summer of fun. I’ll update all this with various thoughts and muses next week when I’ve a free week and some down time. After that it off to Barcelona with I for the feste de la merce, a bit of Rome and Naples to see Andy, a catch up with Jeroen somewhere I hope, Leipzig and Dresden and maybe Poland to see Tomasz, Mirella and Sarah. Beyond that, Asia and Australia calls 🙂

However just got the small matter of my sister’s birthday in London and seeing Leanne, Wei, Cam and Ellen over the next few days in London.

hope to talk to you soon